A recent poll by the Pew Research Center has unleashed a torrent of obituaries for the principles conservatives hold dear.
To Paul Krugman of The New York Times, the poll demonstrates that conservative values are "out of step with an increasingly liberal American public." Those who believe that "government is always the problem" now confront an American public that believes "sometimes government is the solution, after all, and they'd like more of it." The Washington Post's David Broder notes that "the [Pew] survey finds significant growth in support for liberal measures that would expand the role and cost of government."
Even some conservatives agree. "It's clear," economist Bruce Bartlett opined, "we have come to an end of a Republican conservative era."
Indeed, compared to previous Pew polls, this one contains findings that should alarm conservatives both on and off Capitol Hill. More Americans, for example, say they're willing to pay higher taxes to fund universal health coverage. Fewer favor a "strong military" or robust measures to capture terrorists. The UN's approval rating is rising. Religious values, such as daily prayer or belief in God, are declining. And so on.
But, before we tag the toe of the modern conservative movement, let's look closer at Pew's findings. Do they really augur a broad and permanent ideological realignment to the left, or are they merely a temporary blip that will eventually self-correct?
First, Pew conducted the poll between Dec. 12, 2006 and Jan, 9, 2007, at the height of the honeymoon media environment that ushered in the new Democratic majorities on Capitol Hill. The contrast with the media's unforgiving treatment of the Republican majority 12 years earlier was stark -- and certainly influenced the poll results.
Then, The Washington Post Style section greeted the first House Republican Speaker in 40 years with a piece titled: "How the Gingrich Stole Christmas." Now, Speaker Nancy Pelosi enjoyed swooning Style pieces focusing on her wardrobe ("Muted Tones of Quiet Authority: A Look Suited to the Speaker") and credentials as a reformer ("Power Cleaning: As Democrats Take Over the House, Republicans' Perks May Go Out the Window"). At a minimum, pundits and political strategists in both parties should view Pew's results as the high-water mark for left-of-center policies.